High-carb, low-fat diets have long been the accepted protocol for endurance and other sports, but the trend is rapidly changing, as more athletes are discovering the benefits of low carb, high fat diets. Athletes are increasingly favoring the low carb, high fat Paleo and ketogenic diets to boost weight loss and post-workout recovery.
A notable example is NBA superstar LeBron James, who attributed his 25-pound weight loss in 67 days to a low-carb ketogenic style Paleo diet. The 6-foot-8 James said he now weighs about 250 pounds and is quicker on his feet.
LeBron was reportedly inspired to go low-carb after seeing the dramatic health transformation experienced by his former Miami Heat teammate Ray Allen, who adopted the Paleo diet in the summer of 2013.
Allen, 39, came back from the summer off-season break in significantly better shape than he was the previous year after adopting a sugar-free Paleo diet. Ray promptly lost 10 pounds after going Paleo.
While weight loss was not Allen’s goal when he started the Paleo diet, he said the diet gave him better stamina and dramatically improved his post-workout recovery. Ray’s health turnaround motivated his Miami Heat teammate Dwayne Wade to adopt the low carb Paleo diet. Dwight Howard, Derrick Rose and Steve Nash are also recent Paleo converts.
Similarly, professional cyclist Dave Zabriskie and ultra-marathoner Timothy Olson recently abandoned their high-carb, low-fat eating plans in favor of the high fat, low carb Paleo diet and experienced significant performance gains.
Because athletes have historically followed high-carb, low-fat diets, sports scientists said the recent shift toward low carb, high fat eating plans is a major paradigm shift. “This is the world turned upside down,” Professor Jeff Volek of Ohio State University told Sports Illustrated. “It is the completely opposite paradigm.”
Fitness expert Ben Greenfield trained for the 2013 Ironman Triathlon World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, by following a high-fat, low carb ketogenic diet and completed the epic endurance race in an impressive 9:59:26.
Greenfield’s breakfast the morning of the Ironman was a half-stick of butter, two shots of MCT oil, and a cup of coffee — a stark contrast to the vats of pasta most endurance athletes inhale before a race.
Similarly, Dr. Jay Lehr, a 78-year-old Ironman triathlete, has followed a low carb, high fat ketogenic diet his entire life and credits it for his excellent health. Jay has thrived on a diet of red meat, saturated fat, dairy, eggs, butter, and lard and has never felt better.
“I have lived my entire life on high fat — dairy, eggs, butter and lard — which, as you all know has not been the recommended diet for the last 50 years,” said Jay. “I’ve never been inside a regular doctor’s office.” Lehr recently completed his 13th Ironman triathlon.
Obesity expert Dr. Eric Westman, co-author of Keto Clarity, said the health benefits of low carb, high-fat diets extend beyond weight loss and athletic performance. He said research shows the ketogenic diet manages epilepsy, reverse type 2 diabetes, prevents Alzheimer’s disease and starves cancer.
“Eat lots of fat,” said Dr. Westman. “There’s no problem with fat. In fact, saturated fat — the fat that we’ve been taught not to eat — raises your good cholesterol best of all the foods you can eat.”